While riding to Home Depot with his roommate last week, the last thing Ross Kellogg expected was to be pulled over for not wearing his seatbelt — but that’s just what happened.
The University of Minnesota senior and his roommate, who was driving, were both ticketed for not wearing their seatbelts, only about a mile from their house.
“It cost me $103,” he said, adding that he was surprised because he thought seatbelt tickets cost only $10. “I haven’t even paid it yet.”
Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the passage of Minnesota’s primary seatbelt enforcement law, which allows police officers to pull over and ticket motorists solely for not wearing their seat belts. Before the law, officers needed another reason to pull over drivers.
Police forces across the state marked the anniversary by ramping up enforcement of the law. Last week, approximately 400
Minnesota law enforcement agencies made an extra effort to ticket motorists without seatbelts, according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s website.
More than 300 drivers were cited for not wearing their seatbelts during the campaign, which ran from May 24 to June 6, Minneapolis police Sgt. Marv Schumer said.
The base fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $25, although with the addition of court costs — which vary from county to county — tickets can run up to $100 to $130, Eric Roeske , a state patrol lieutenant with the Minnesota Public Safety Department , said.
The goal of the campaign was not to hand out tickets, but to gain compliance, Roeske said.
Currently, about 10 percent of Minnesotans do not wear their seatbelts, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The campaign is part of Minnesota’s Toward Zero Deaths initiative, a movement to cut down on traffic fatalities through education, engineering, enforcement and emergency services. Between 2006 and 2008, 539 drivers killed in traffic accidents were not wearing their seatbelts, and 31 percent of serious injuries in accidents are attributed to not wearing a seatbelt, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Just because the extra ticketing effort is over does not mean that police are going to stop looking for drivers who are not wearing their seatbelts, Schumer said.
“Nothing is going to change,” he said. “Not wearing a seat belt is still a primary offense, and we will enforce it as we have in the past.”
Law enforcement agencies focus special effort on ticketing motorists without seatbelts at night, according to the Department of Public Safety. An alarming number of unbelted drivers are killed between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Minnesota roads, according to the department.
Agencies also focus on ticketing drivers between the ages of 15 and 29. This age group accounts for 45 percent of deaths in which the driver was unbelted, even though drivers in this group account for only 25 percent of licensed drivers.
“We need to have people aware that if they are not belted, they are going to be ticketed,” Roeske said, “because wearing a seatbelt is the number one thing you can do to prevent a fatality in a crash.”